Deciphering the symbol on plastic containers

I can’t help but notice the symbol on the bottom of the milk jug,  2 HDPE.  Or the 1 PETE on my strawberry container.  How about my all natural eggs with number 1 PETE.  Can’t forget the coffee creamer, 1 PETE .  The Tupperware 5 PP.  The list could go on and on….

What do these numbers and symbols even mean?  I have this little voice saying, “You aren’t going to be one of those kind of people are you? “ Well yes, yes I am.  Ignorance is not bliss.  I choose to live a educated lifestyle.  Asking questions is essential for me.

See I used to be one those people who didn’t care, actually I thought that being concerned with these topics made me a liberal or a conspiracy theorist. I didn’t think twice about looking at labels or wonder what goes into the making of processed foods.

After watching Documentaries like Food Matters and Tapped, my foundation of food and the food industry has been shaken.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4DOQ6Xhqss

The plastic industry created these numbers for sorting purposes, and indicates what sort of plastic is being used.  Contrary to popular belief the triangle symbol, aka  “chasing arrows” , doesn’t indicate recyclability.   The number indicates the type of plastic.  Technically speaking  all of these can be recycled but certain city’s municipal centers don’t accept all numbers. Look at http://earth911.com/location/ for your cities rules.   

It is said: 2,4,5 = safe, 1,3,6,7 = unsafe. Whatever “safe” means, especially in regards to plastic.
Certain numbers are more safe than others:

  • #2 HDP or HPDE (high-density polyethylene): This high density plastic is the most resistant to chemical leaching. Most commonly found in milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles. Easy to spot because it will be semitransparent or a solid white color. It’s never clear.
  • #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): Although resistant to leaching, it’s almost never used in water bottles but is found in sandwich bags, cling wrap and grocery bags.
  • #5 PP (polypropylene): This semi-transparent or white plastic is also resistant to chemical leaching. More used in syrup bottles and yogurt containers.

Try to avoid:

  • #1 PET/PETE (polyethylene terephthalate): Made for one time use, these bottles should be avoided since they more than likely leach the heavy metal antimony and the hormone disrupting chemical BPA. Don’t reuse these bottles and don’t purchase if they are over six months old.
  • #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride): Known to leach two toxic chemicals, DEHP (di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate) and bispehonal-A that are both known endocrine and hormone disruptors, this is the most common plastic used in water bottles, baby bottles and cooking oil.
  • #6 PS (polystyrene): Known to leach styrene, a carcinogen that causes headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, this plastic is most commonly used in disposable coffee cups and take out containers.
  • The winner for worst plastic: Polycarbonate: Since this plastic is made with BPA, it’s going to leach and is probably the worst plastic to use. Unfortunately it’s found in baby bottles, reusable water bottles, 5-gallon jugs (used for the office water cooler) and food-storage containers.

I think about the process in order to make plastic.  All for what?  To make our life more convenient?  And the ways we alter the plastic, example the microwave.  Or all the plastic that is in the oceans affecting wildlife, the landfill and the plastic degrading into the land, the people that are affected manufacturing it.  Not alone all the oil it takes to make plastic.   In the US, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make plastic bags that Americans consume.  This is plastic bags alone, think of all the plastic in your household…

So what can I do about this:

  • Limit plastic-even small changes make a difference (for example I no longer buy water bottles)
  • Continue research and change accordingly
  • When using plastic, take certain precautions- don’t let it sit in the sun, use microwave safe glass instead of plastic, allow food to cool before putting in plastic containers (especially meat)
  • Be a conscious consumer, take focus off of convenience but take responsibility for my impact
Sources:

http://www.tappedthemovie.com/

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/get-rid-plastic-water-bottles

http://domesticgoddesses.tribe.net/thread/243d1968-ce4d-4345-9a60-http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/get-rid-plastic-water-bottles

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7 thoughts on “Deciphering the symbol on plastic containers

  1. Pingback: Plastics Companies Look To Biopolymers In Green Manufacturing

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  4. Excellent! I have known that plastics leach fumes from an incident I had when I first start wearing eye glasses. I’m suffering from too many minor ailments to ignore this information. Thank You!

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